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Big in 2012

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Smartphones, tablets, undersea cables, fibre networks and the Cloud will all contribute to a storm of change in 2012, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
Thenyear 2012 is already shaping up to be a big year in hi-tech.

Seldomnhas so much been expected and anticipated of device manufacturers even beforenthe New Year has started.

Thenmain focus will be on Apple, as the market waits to see what it produces in anworld without Steve Jobs. The next iPhone, version 5, will certainly benreleased, but will it live up to the groundbreaking impact of its predecessors?nThe next iPad, too, or rather iPad 3, will also see the light, and will tell usnmuch about continued innovation at Apple.

Whilenmost do expect to see the iPhone continue setting the pace for cutting edgensmartphones, the iPad will be the true test. nBy the time it appears, competitors will have had two years to catch up.

Already,nSamsung has shown that it can match and surpass Apple’s offerings in thendevice, producing variations in almost every size from 5” to 10”, againstnApple’s one-trick 10” pony. The one arena in which it has failed dismally hasnbeen price. If their 2012 devices both take technology higher and prices lower,nApple CEO Tim Cook will have to find Jobs-like inspiration to keep Apple ahead.nA range of iPad sizes is just one option.

Beyondnthe tablet wars, the real action will occur in the smartphone environment.nNokia has already heralded its comeback with the Lumia range of Windows phones,nwhile Motorola has continued its own astonishing comeback with the RAZR phone,nclaimed to be the thinnest – and certainly one of the most gorgeous – on thenmarket.

Alongnwith Motorola, HTC, Sony and LG are expected to roll out a new generation ofnphones using the next version of the Android operating system, 4.0, curiouslynnamed Ice Cream Sandwich. It is regarded as a worthy competitor to Apple’s iOS,nand is likely to cut deep into the latter’s market share in smartphonenoperating systems.

Atnthe other end of the mobile phone spectrum, cheap and sometimes nasty phonesnwill carry on selling in vast numbers. That prospect was underlined just lastnweek when MTN announced its own name-brand phone, the S50S, going on sale innPEP stores at just R79 on a pre-paid account. The phone is manufactured in thenFar East, as are most phones nowadays.

Rivalnnetworks also have sub-R100 phones, notably the Samsung E1080 from Vodacom, the Cell CnMF Live and 8ta’s G2101, all at R99. Such phones continue to dominate the lowernsocio-economic segments of the market – which also happen to make up thenbiggest slice of the market.

However,nin 2012, smartphones will come down so rapidly in price, they will begin makingnserious inroads into this market, and by the end of the year may even overtakennormal phones in total sales. Chinese manufacturer ZTE, selling low-end andnoften rebranded phones, has quietly emerged from below the radar to become thenfourth largest phone maker in the world. They are expected to move up thensmartphone ladder with new Android phones combining high specs with low prices.

Thesendevelopments will all set the scene for a smartphone-dominated market, and anrapid rise in data demand.

Talkingnof data, 2012 is also the year when the West Africa Cable System (WACS), thenmassive new undersea cable that recently landed north of Cape Town, is switchednon. At the same time, many of South Africa and Africa’s national and urbannfibre network projects will near completion, and data capacity of all networksnand telecommunications providers will rise dramatically. So don’t be toonshocked when you see data costs plunge yet again, and even data qualitynimprove.

Onnthe back of all this data demand and supply, the Cloud can also be expected toncome into its own. That’s simply a nebulous term to describe services andnapplications that can be accessed directly over the Internet. It’s never beennfeasible as a wide-scale option in South Africa due to our lack of broadbandninfrastructure.

But,nin the business world, that is changing, and by the end of 2012 more than halfnof South African corporations will be using Cloud services. Small businessesnand consumers will follow in their wake – if not leading the climb into thencloud.

Itnwon’t be calm in this Cloud, however. A storm of change is headed our way inn2012.

* ArthurnGoldstuck is editor-in-chief of Gadget and heads up World Wide Worxn(www.worldwideworx.com). Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

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